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Robert Wan: A True Legend

20 May 2019

By Sze Man Young   

Robert Wan, renowned as the pearl emperor of Tahiti and founder of the Robert Wan Group, looks at a bright future with plans to further strengthen his company’s existing operations.

Robert Wan, founder of the Robert Wan Group

The Robert Wan Pearl Museum

20th anniversary celebration of the Robert Wan Pearl Museum


Having devoted his entire life to the Tahitian pearl business, Robert Wan is widely credited for bringing the Tahitian pearl to the forefront of fine jewellery making. Wan sat down with JNA to talk about the company’s business strategies and market outlook.

How has the pearl industry changed over the years?

The 2008 financial crisis and the 9-11 terrorist attacks put a dent on the US market, which was the biggest source of business for the pearl industry at the time. Until now, there are very little signs of recovery. But we now have China, which took the place of the US market. There are also more products today owing to higher production volume.

As a pearl producer, wholesaler and retailer, how does your company benefit from a vertically integrated business model?

We are adapting to changes in today’s business sector. Having a vertically integrated business model allows more control over production and helps us balance costs and market prices. It also translates to greater responsibility in promoting the development of the Tahitian pearl industry.

What is your outlook on production and sales in 2019 amid a challenging economic situation?

Tahitian pearl production remains stable. Tahitian pearls account for a small part of overall pearl production, compared with other pearl products, which means there is room for growth. We normally produce eight metric tonnes per year. This year, we are looking at an annual output of 10 tonnes. We are aiming to further enhance the quality of the pearls, the colour in particular. We want to offer more diverse pearl colours. Back when I invented the pistachio colour – a green, yellowish pearl – nobody took notice at first. And then there was a market boom and this unique colour became highly sought after by buyers.

What can we expect from the Robert Wan Group over the coming years?

We are planning to launch a new project in Hong Kong in the second half of the year. It’s a collaboration with a major company as a means to strengthen our brand-building initiatives. The project will involve setting up a team in Hong Kong to carry out a wide range of marketing activities to promote the Robert Wan brand.

Our goal is to reach out to the younger generation and promote the beauty of Tahitian pearls to them. We hope to launch new activities every month, similar to what we did in Tahiti to raise awareness in the market. We organised the Miss Pearl campaign as well as education events. In October last year, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Robert Wan Pearl Museum in Tahiti.

This is our legacy for the future generation; we are committed to offering one-of-a-kind products that celebrate creativity and diversity.

Traceability has become a hot topic in the jewellery industry. What is your take on this issue?

It is good for the market and industry players must do something to promote transparency. Robert Wan strictly implements environment-friendly farming methods, including the use of biotechnology.